Lodi News-Sentinel

Former Pakistan leader’s supporters clash with police trying to arrest him

- Ismail Dilawar and Kamran Haider

Supporters of Imran Khan clashed with Pakistani police outside his home as the security officials tried to arrest the former premier for the second time, prolonging a political crisis that’s overshadow­ing the nation’s economic turmoil.

Islamabad police spokespers­on Taqi Jawad said that a police team reached Khan’s residence in the central city of Lahore late Tuesday afternoon with arrest warrants. This is to ensure Khan appears in court on March 18 to face charges of failing to disclose assets related to the sale of state gifts that he received when he was in power.

Khan, 70, has challenged the arrest warrant in Islamabad High Court, his aide Fawad Chaudhry said in a Twitter post.

Khan has been largely confined to his home in Lahore since he was shot and wounded in the leg during a rally in November. He has been skipping court appearance­s in the many court cases he faces, saying there are threats to his life.

The former cricket star has requested the courts to hear his cases in a high-security judicial complex in the country’s capital.

The legal tussles over Khan’s appearance in various court cases adds to the political turmoil that has gripped the South Asian nation since he was ousted from power in April last year. The drama comes as the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is grappling with an economic crisis and is racing to secure bailout funds to avoid a default. Police used water cannons and batons to disperse hundreds of Khan supporters who have surrounded his home, television footage showed. Several of them were arrested and his Tehreek-e-Insaf party has called now for nationwide protests.

The latest warrant for arrest came after the Election Commission in October disqualifi­ed Khan from holding public office for allegedly hiding money from selling gifts received from foreign dignitarie­s and world leaders when he was prime minister.

Formal charges against the ex-prime minister could trigger more street protests. Khan is the most popular politician in Pakistan, an opinion survey showed last week, and his rallies have drawn tens of thousands of supporters.

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